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Give charitable dollars locally

Jim Porter
Law Review

“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

” Winston Churchill

That advice from Sir Winston really hits the mark for me. This year has been a tough one for our family, and one thing I have learned is that in the end what really matters is relationships and family ” what you do for others.

No one is going to stand up at your service and tell your friends how you were the best worker in the office. The lasting stories told will be how you made a difference, what you have done with yourself and for others.

When someone tells me they don’t get involved because whatever they do won’t be enough to make a difference, I quote Betty Reese: “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.” The littlest thing can make a difference.

I read a recent article by attorney Martin Kimel in the Los Angeles Times, titled “Don’t waste your charity on rich colleges.” Kimel sings my song.

Kimel’s piece describes the university “endowment races that suck scarce philanthropic resources from underfunded charities.” He points out that Stanford University has an endowment of $15.2 billion, while Harvard’s is nearly twice that. In 2004, the endowments of the 10 richest American universities were worth $78 billion. Stanford just announced a campaign to raise a record $4.3 billion, joining Columbia and Cornell in the $4 billion fund-drive category. Harvard’s latest fundraising effort is to raise $5 billion.

The point of charitable giving is to benefit society, not to build massive endowments and university facilities to attract famous faculty and enhance the prestige of the university.

Here’s how you make a difference. Donate locally.

Universities and large organizations have a whole nation to pull from for their charitable dollars. Our local organizations only have a small region to support them. For example, Project MANA has an annual budget of $160,000. Believe me, they make a difference. For what they do, you would think they have a budget 10 times that.

KidZone operates with an annual budget under $250,000. They are lean and mean, as is the Lahontan Community Foundation, which awarded more than $134,000 this year.

My own alma mater, U.C. Davis, a terrific school, has an annual fundraising department budget of nearly $15 million. If your heart tells you to give to your alma mater, then by all means do it.

But if you want to get more “bang for your buck,” keep your charitable dollars local. A friend of mine has a policy of only giving within 30 miles of her home. She likes to see her money at work.

I remember working with a local woman who wanted to make a donation to help unwed mothers and young girls who never had a chance to go to college. In the end she left all of her considerable assets to the University of Southern California. Like they need it. Her contribution will be a drop in the bucket and will never make it to unwed mothers. What a shame, as that money could have benefited young girls in our community.

Our little Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation, started in 1999, has assets of more than $10 million and has given almost 1,500 grants totaling $9 million, most locally to dozens of worthwhile organizations and causes. The $9 million amount is a staggering number, the result of generous locals and second homeowners.

Some give for the passion. Others for the tax breaks; they save money giving it away.

Donating to the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation makes sense, as it works in a wide range of areas of interest, so if you want to help seniors, TTCF can steer you to the Truckee Tahoe Seniors Council. Want to benefit families, consider the North Tahoe Family Resource Center and Truckee or the Wellspring Counseling Center.

These organizations survive on shoestring budgets. And there are more, like the Truckee Donner Land Trust and the Truckee River Watershed Council.

Give locally and change a life, and by doing so, define your own life. Year end is approaching. Don’t wait.

This column is dedicated to the memory and honor of Nate Krissoff, a stellar young man who last week died in Iraq fighting for his country.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter – Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and Reno. He is a mediator and was the governor’s appointee to the Bipartisan McPherson Commission and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. He may be reached at porter@portersimon.com or at the firm’s Web site, http://www.portersimon.com.


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